Grooming Your Horse

Gray horse being groomed with a curry comb.
Gray horse being groomed with a curry comb.

Importance of regular grooming

Grooming your horse on a daily or regular basis is important not only in keeping your horse looking good and sharing some pleasurable time together, but is also invaluable in avoiding coat and skin problems, and in catching injuries such as cuts and bruises, and noticing hoof problems in their earliest stages.

Horses should be groomed before and after workouts. Before saddling up, clean the feet with a hoof pick, and go over the horse lightly with your hands and a brush to remove any dirt or debris that might irritate the horse's skin by the saddle or other tack.

After the workout, walk the horse and let it cool down before being allowed to drink. Scrape off surface moisture and rub the horse down with a soft cloth or towel, again checking the horse's legs, hooves, and body for any injuries, burrs or debris, or gravel that might be caught in the hooves.

Grooming tools

The following tools are used for general grooming. Each has a specific purpose and grooming follows a regular order noted in the next section.

  1. Sweat scrapper
  2. Rubber curry comb
  3. Coarse body brush
  4. Soft body brush
  5. Face brush
  6. Tail and mane brush
  7. Grooming sponge (cleaning ears and nose)
  8. Grooming cloth (for polishing coat)
  9. Hoof pick

Grooming procedures

Horses appreciate a predictable routine. Most groomers start at the same point on the horse (normally left shoulder) and follow the same procedure noted below:

  1. If the horse is sweaty, use a sweat scraper to remove surface moisture.
  2. Using a rubber curry comb, depending on the needs of your horse, loosen and remove any dirt, mud, or loose hair by applying the comb firmly, but gently in small circles over the neck and body, but not on the sensitive areas on the head and below the knees and hocks. Metal curry combs are to rough on most horses and should not be used.
  3. A stiff body brush is used next over the horse's neck and trunk. Short brush strokes with moderate pressure loosens dander from the coat and brings it to the surface.
  4. A soft body brush is used over the entire horse's body starting at the neck and working down the front of the chest and side of the shoulder in a circular pattern.  Brush the foreleg, back, belly loin, croup, and hind leg, then cross to the other side of the horse and repeat the routine.
  5. Next brush the mane and tail using a coarser, stiffer brush or a wire dog brush.
  6. Using a soft brush, gently brush the face and ears, then using a sponge, wipe the face, eyes, nostrils and dock. Use a soft cloth, gently wipe the inside of the ear flap to remove dirt and loosened dead skin flakes.
  7. Polish the coat with a soft grooming cloth.
  8. Clean the feet with a hoof pick, beginning at the frog and working toward the toe using strokes away from the handler.

Consider this

Grooming your horse daily or on a regular schedule contributes greatly to both its physical and mental health. Removing that burr before you throw on the saddle, or picking out that piece of gravel caught in the hoof works wonders with the horse's attitude when it comes to riding and being cooperative.

About the Author

EquiMed Staff

EquiMed staff writers team up to provide articles that require periodic updates based on evolving methods of equine healthcare. Compendia articles, core healthcare topics and more are written and updated as a group effort. Our review process includes an important veterinarian review, helping to assure the content is consistent with the latest understanding from a medical professional.